A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Getting the Rural Vote - Some Issues

Recently a fellow blogger asked me “what can (governments or partys) do to get the rural vote”? Having been blogging myself about rural issues for some years now I was surprised to find that I did not have a substantive answer ready in regard to either federal or provincial jurisdictions.

Before going much further I must make clear that the rural population is no less divided in our preferred choices of government than the urban population, we may in fact be more divided in that the mere definition of “rural” perhaps covers a much broader range of “lifestyles” and situations than does the definition of “urban”. I will try and answer the question above at a later date, it will of course be a personal view and cannot represent what all the “rural” citizens may want or think. In the meanwhile my best response is to give readers a crash course in some of the issues that effect us here in the cities, towns, villages and countryside that comprise a “rural” riding. I will do this not by regurgitating information and opinions posted elsewhere but by pointing you to each of those articles along with my reaction to them in various posts over the last two or three years.

The first question is “What is Rural”, a question I have previously attempted to answer (unfortunately that piece has disappeared into electronic hell) and a question asked by many other including in some of the reports below. It is a very difficult definition to pin down with as many views upon it as there are writers!

One of the best outlines of rural needs is “The Senate Report on Rural Poverty” and my reaction to it. It covers a great deal more than just “poverty” issues and says that Rural Canada “lacks a voice” in the Federal Government.

Also of interest is the report on “ The Federal Role in Rural Sustainability” and my post on that.

A National Symposium on How to Build a Sustainable Rural Canada was held in Edmonton my post reflects the theme of One Vision, Many Voices at that gathering.

My view that rural populations are rapidly becoming “The Forgotten Minority” may be worth a read.

The ever increasing rules and regulations to be followed by food processing operations that make small operations non-viable impact the rural areas more than most. Farm “value added” operations are becoming ever harder to start or maintain.

Also of interest a discussion on property taxation and how a small municipality with a limited tax base cannot compete with a larger one in regard to providing services to their citizens.

The move by the Ontario government to reduce the need for environmental assessments for “Wind Farms” and the impact they may have upon rural residents heath and property values is a big issue in some areas. Overriding residents and local municipal concerns to benefit mostly urban hydro users is not acceptable.

Then there is the other side of that coin where property owners can be negatively impacted by the EPA without compensation for their work to preserve a species or loss of land use arising from such action.

I will try in a future post to bring all these things together in a more concise overview but if you have visited just a few of these links you will begin to see the difficulty in answering that question we started with. At this point it would seem that the best answer is to move “universal services” such as ambulance, policing, social services etc off the municipal government (but maintain and improve those services) and give more local say in what can be locally unique issues like land use, small industry regulation and environmental protection.

As is recommended in that Senate report, the use of local Post Offices to supply Government Services would do much to make rural folks life easer, this sort of initiative should also be considered for our rural schools which are also once again under threat of closure and “centralization” in the name of “efficiency”. Our rural schools have in fact been under almost constant “review” since my children started in the school system 20 years ago resulting in the gradual decline in the number of local schools and the ever increasing time our kids must spend on the bus each day.

You will note that I have made no effort here to separate the various levels of government responsibility, it is rather difficult to do so when responsibilities for delivery, funding and regulation is so often a mix of two or more government bodies.

I will end with one recommendation from the report One Vision, Many Voices

”The best ideas about rural Canada come from rural Canadians.Municipalities need to ensure that senior levels of government are listening and not providing solutions in absence of local representation.”

This final Priority is probably the most important, and the one which most rural folks feel strongly about. Made in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton or Ottawa solutions not only rarely work for us but are rarely acceptable or even practical to those living far from the city. Whether we “the rural” residents can agree on what those solutions should be, or get Government to listen, is another whole issue!

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